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Philip Mahony aiming to make 2017 a year to remember

Waterford and Ballygunner wing-back determined to make this season different

Waterford manager Derek McGrath celebrates with Philip Mahony after victory over Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

For Philip Mahony the dying weeks of 2017 will offer no let-up on a hectic year. On Sunday the Waterford wing-back was prominent, as his club Ballygunner won a classic contest against Thurles Sarsfields after extra time.

Despite that protracted engagement and having taken the field in each of the last seven weekends, they’re out again next Sunday to take on the Clare champions in the Munster semi-final.

“You’d expect Sixmilebridge to be that little bit fresher than us,” he says, “but look, if we’d been beaten, everyone would have been saying that the last six or seven weeks had stood against us and then if you win, like we did, you’ll have people saying that that’s been a good thing. I really don’t think it matters all that much.

“I didn’t see their county final but I know they won the replay pretty well. If you look down through the team you can see that they have plenty of Clare intercounty players throughout the team. They’ll be a tall order, but we’ll look forward to it.”

Before gathering himself for his club’s fourth successive Waterford title, Mahony was a key personality in the county’s progress to what was only a second All-Ireland final in 54 years.

It ended in disappointment but after a quietly authoritative championship, symbolised in the high point of the All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Munster champions Cork, Mahony was nominated for an All Star.

He maintained the form into the county championship, and again on Sunday there was confirmation of the profound influence of the Ballygunner half-back line of Wayne Hutchinson, Shane Walsh and Mahony, who is nonetheless aware that the club have struggled to win the provincial title – one success in 12 attempts – despite dominating Waterford over the past quarter of a century.

Ballygunner’s Philip Mahony in action against Pa Bourke of Thurles Sarsfields. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

“We haven’t really won much – we won the county championship obviously – but we’d like to win a bit more, because at the end of the day, that’s what’s you’re measured on as well.

“Next week is the next step, playing against a formidable Sixmilebridge side that’s after winning plenty of championships over the last few years like we have, like Thurles have. Munster is extremely competitive and we know that from the last four years when we haven’t been successful in it.”

Bad luck

There has been misfortune as well. Just two seasons ago Ballygunner reached the Munster final but were beaten by eventual All-Ireland winners, Na Piarsaigh from Limerick. That was the year Mahony’s brother Pauric, the county and club’s leading marksman, was missing because of a horrendous injury sustained just a week after Waterford had won the national league.

To add to the frustration, Mahony also missed that year’s final because of suspension.

This time around Ballygunner have been moving at an impressive rate despite the demands of playing every week. They will have home venue for next weekend’s clash with Sixmilebridge, an advantage Mahony feels could be significant.

“Last year we were up in Thurles and lost by just the one point, so maybe the home support was a factor, I’m not too sure. Certainly in extra time there in particular the Ballygunner crowd really got behind us. It was definitely a factor in the end.

“We’ve won the last four counties in Waterford but we haven’t progressed in the Munster club the way we would have liked. When the game was in the melting pot I thought we showed good character. I don’t think that could be in question after that performance.”